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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

A Little Bit of Solidarity

I am giving up sugar for the month of October. Why? Well, “our JVs” are doing it and I thought it sounded like an interesting challenge and a nice way to be in solidarity with them: thinking of them and maybe offering up a little prayer whenever I make the choice not to eat sugar.

Some background information: “Our JVs” are the Portland Mac house community of Jesuit Volunteers. We act as their “support people,” facilitating discussions, hosting them for meals and fun. We were JVs in Sitka, Alaska in 1999-2000 as a married couple and found it to be one of the most formative experiences of our lives, specifically in the JV values of simplicity, spirituality, community and social justice.

The time we have spent over the last six years working with Mac house JVs has helped us stay connected and focused on those values in a concrete way. When they talk about alternative means of transportation, or energy fasts, or spontaneous dance parties, or attending a lecture together and discussing it, or the clients and guests they serve in their placements, they remind us of what we hold most dear as a couple and what it means to choose to intentionally focus on relationship.

Each of the values that JVC instilled in us is about relationship. Simplicity is about our relationship to money and objects and how to value people over both of them. Spirituality is about our relationship with God. Community is about our relationship with others, especially those we share life with daily. And social justice is about our relationship and responsibility to marginalized people and to the environment.

All of the values are about how we choose to be intentional. As we have become “an old married couple” we have built the values in to our lives in some concrete ways. We have only one car and try to travel to and from work by bicycle or on foot. We are active in our faith lives: participating in our parish life and prioritizing personal and family prayer. We strongly emphasize hospitality and hosting folks in our house as often as we can. We chose to purchase a house in a socio-economically integrated area of Portland so that we form relationships and share life with folks very different from ourselves.

These are all tangible ways that we tried to build living the values into our life. These choices are tangible but also forgettable…we grow accustomed to our way of life so easily that we can lose track of why we chose it in the first place. That is what is so valuable for us personally in working with our JVs. They keep us mindful. Their very striving and living day-to-day acts as an example for us. It is also a reminder to stay mindful of what we do, and why we do what we do.

Now, I don’t think for a moment that every couple should embrace the same four values that we focus upon. I do think, though, that every couple has values that are most essentially part of their identity—the essence of who they are and strive to be as a couple. For us, naming them and intentionally choosing ways to live them out is of the utmost importance to actually being able to continue to grow more fully into the people we are called to be.